Monday, July 25, 2011

Chapter 23: In which a tornado puts everything into perspective.

They walked up to the truck, which was parked in front of Seven West, in a tow-away zone. “Want to get a coffee in here?” asked Eoin, indicating the restaurant behind them.

“What about your truck?”

“Ah, let them tow it. I’ve never been to an impound lot before. It could be an adventure.” He took her hand and let her up the stairs.

The restaurant was in a tall, dark house. Eoin and Katie walked all the way to the top floor; the walls had been pulled down and the spaces were open, with cozy tables and mismatched chairs spread throughout. “Let’s sit by the window,” said Katie, eyeing an old velvet sofa. It was one of the only empty spots in the room, which was otherwise filled with tall, lanky men in plaid shirts and dark jeans and their short, pale girlfriends who, for the most part, sported messy updos and tired, sad eyes.

Katie realized she was with her own tall, lanky man in plaid, and she was pretty sure she also had tired, sad eyes. And she was in black ballet flats. She’d become a hipster without even trying.

“I’ll have a latte,” she ordered from the young woman who approached their table. “And a cookie, or something.”

“Oh....” said the girl, pushing her over-sized glasses up her pert, pale nose. “Sorry, I’m not...I don’t work here.”

“You don’t?”

“No, I’m just …. Are you Eoin Verdon?”

“Yeah,” Eoin answered, blushing.

“I thought so. We studied an installation of yours last year in my art class. It was amazing.” The girl smiled sweetly. “I’ve always hoped to meet you.”

Katie watched Eoin watching this girl. She tried to feel jealous, but she didn’t. She felt proud. She thought this was a good sign. Wait, no. She did feel a bit jealous. But not of this girl. Of Eoin.

Running that new, curious information around in her head, she turned to look out the window. The sky was a strange shade of greenish grey. The air was so hot, the clouds were thick and heavy. It was going to rain....Dammit. Her basement would flood again. Poor walls couldn’t take this anymore. They’d start to dissolve any day now, the concrete turning to sand, the sand slipping down, giving way, her house collapsing....And then it was raining, heavy, hard rain drops pelting sideways against the glass. The wind picked up, tree branches lashed against the window.

“This looks bad,” Katie turned back to Eoin, just as he was standing up and someone ran into the room with a wild-eyed look, his hipster hair even more unkempt. “You’ve got to come downstairs. There’s a tornado warning.”

“In the city?” Katie and the girl both said at the same time, and Katie nearly said,  “You owe me a beer,” but then realized this might not be the best time for such shenanigans. She was just so terrified, all of a sudden. The green sky and the rain and everything.

Eoin grabbed her hand and they followed the rest of the hipsters towards the stairs. No one was being too nonchalant now, though Katie did notice that a number of them were cradling their lattes as though they were relics.

“How can there be a tornado in the city?” Eoin asked. “I thought those were country things. The Wizard of Oz, and all that?”

“It’s really rare, but it’s happened.” Katie nearly lost her footing on the steep, winding stairs. Damn Toronto and its repurposed houses.

“It’s only a warning!” the art student’s voice was wavering behind Katie. “It’s only a warning!”

The group crammed into the basement, a rather oppressive room with very little light. Katie pulled Eoin over to a space beside the stairs, and they settled themselves down on the floor. “I guess my truck can’t get towed when the weather’s like this,” he grinned.

“Well, it might get towed by nature,” Katie smiled. “That would be a pretty good story, too.” She leaned her head against his shoulder, looking for a comfortable position. “Do you have tornadoes in Ireland?”

“Oh, yeah. I’ve never been in one, though. Have you?”

“Only once. “ Katie’s voice was low, nearly whispering. All around the basement there was a hushed apprehension; everyone was waiting for something to happen. “I was in grade three. And Anne was in grade eight. And they sent us home from school early, because of the warning.”

“They didn’t keep you there?”

“No, this was the eighties. I think children’s lives were worth less then. Or they trusted children more. Anyway, they sent us home. Anne and I walked, we fought our way home against crazy strong wind.” Somewhere across the room a radio crackled on. Katie thought maybe they could pretend they were waiting out a bomb attack in the subway during the Blitz.  “Our parents weren’t around, but Anne was great. She gathered up snacks, and water, and blankets, and she made us a little hideout in the basement. And we waited there until our parents came home. She read me stories, we drew pictures.” Eoin held Katie close, pulled her in to him. “I miss my sister,” she said, her voice extra quiet so the hipsters couldn’t hear.

“We’re going to find her,” he murmured into her hair, and she shook her head.

“You keep saying that, Eoin. But what if we don’t?” She took a deep breath. “What if we do, but by the time we find her its too late?”

“Too late for what?”

“For everything. She’ll be too sick, or she’ll be....What if she dies? What if she’s never coming back? It’s the not knowing that’s killing me. I have no power, Eoin. ”

“Sure you do. Look how far we got in only a few hours today. We know she smokes. We know she got banned from that 7-Eleven and we know she’s hanging out with a long-haired criminal. That’s power.”

Under any other circumstances that list of details would be a very bad list. But Eoin was right: they had more today than they had yesterday. And yet.

“Where does it get us? Where do we go from here? I can’t control any of this.“

“Sure you can. You control what you do next. Have faith in your sister. She’s obviously a survivor.”

“Yeah. But … what if she comes back and I’m still....a mess? I’m a mess, Eoin. I’m nothing like what I was supposed to be. And she always believed in me. What if she comes back and we’re not sisters anymore? What if she doesn’t want me?” Kate was feeling hysterical. This was so not the way to behave on a second date.

“What are you talking about?”

Katie reached into her bag and pulled out the note Anne had left her. It was dark, but you could still make out the words “You were going to be fantastic” in spite of the dim basement.

“Anne left me this. A couple of weeks ago. And she’s right. I was going to be fantastic. I was going to be amazing. And now I’m just...and if I were better, maybe she’d come back.” The words were crazy. The idea was crazy. But that’s just it: stuck here in this terrible, cramped basement, the city overhead being torn apart by a tornado, Katie felt crazy.

“Oh, Katie.” Eoin’s face was kind, so kind. He smiled at her. “You are fantastic.”

“All clear!”  a voice called out from across the basement. “CBC says we’re okay to venture outside. The threat is over.”

A sigh of relief passed through the crowd. Katie and Eoin got to their feet, and followed the rest of the crowd up the creaking stairs.

They got out to the sidewalk, the once-violent rain now trickling into a soft summer shower. The sky was blue again amidst the clouds. You’d never know that only moments before they’d been down there, in the dark, cowering in fear, losing their minds. (Well, okay, maybe not “their” minds. Maybe just Katie’d been doing that.)

“Shoot,” Eoin looked around himself. “I forgot my bag. Back in just a sec.” He kissed Katie quickly and bounded back up the stairs to the restaurant, nearly knocking over a guy in a ripped-up hoodie and a scruffy beard. He was decidedly not a hipster. “Woah, watch it, man”.

The scruffy-beard guy stared up into the slowly clearing sky. “Weather’s one PMS-y bitch,” he murmured, and nodded over at Katie. “Were you stuffed into that basement, too?”


“I was out here putting up posters when the storm hit. Good thing I’d only started otherwise I’d be having to redo all my work.” He pulled a poster out of a satchel, and stapled it to the telephone pole.

“Hey, can I borrow that for a second?” Katie reached for the staple gun, and with four quick punches You were going to be fantastic was stapled between an add for belly dancing class and a poster for an upcoming Rob Zombie show.

She stood back to admire her work. But something seemed off. “Do you have a pen?” She asked the poster boy. He handed her a black Sharpie. Katie carefully crossed out “were” and with the tidiest printing she could manage, carefully wrote in “are”.

Eoin appeared at her side, and raised an eyebrow.

“I have to reach her somehow.”  Katie took his hand. An idea was beginning to form.

You Decide!

When Katie gets home, there is an email in her inbox.

It’s from Nora inviting her to Melissa’s 34th birthday party!
It’s from ex-boyfriend Bobby, telling her that he’s coming to town next week for business and he’d like to meet up!


  1. Melissa --this relationship might also benefit from the telephone pole art installation. Would Bobby care?

  2. Melissa - I miss Melissa!

  3. I am going with Melissa too...

  4. I am going with Bobby as well..

  5. She dated a guy named "bobby"!? Good God. Just resign yourself to the fact that Nancy and I are usually right.

  6. Oh I forgot to write that I particularly liked this episode.

  7. Bobby! Though this may reflect the fact that I am unhealthily interested in stories of boys over stories of friends, art installations, etc.

  8. I'm with Team Melissa on this one!! LOL